Non-tenure-track professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Tuesday began a planned two-day strike over stalled negotiations regarding their first union contract. Shawn Gilmore, lecturer in English and president of the American Federation of Teachers- and American Association of University Professors-affiliated non-tenure-track-faculty union, said in an interview that the union would have preferred to continue negations over striking. “But the university has made very little in the way of overtures to bargain or settle outside issues,” he said. Of particular concern to the union is standardized, multiyear contracts for eligible faculty members. Participation in shared governance and assurances of academic freedom also are key.
Robin Kaler, a university spokesperson, said the strike seemed “fairly limited in scope.” While the union wasn’t keeping track of participants, Gilmore said a midday rally saw several hundred attendees, and members plan to continue picketing today.
The university said in a statement that although “we continue to believe a strike is not in the best interests of our specialized faculty members, our students or the campus, we respect the right of each specialized faculty member to decide whether or not to participate. Our goal has always been, and continues to be, to work with the [Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition] to reach a fair and equitable contract.”
While the university supports multiyear contracts, the statement said, individual academic units “are best positioned to award multiyear contracts, as they best know their unique curricular needs and financial capacity. Multiyear contracts should be awarded based on performance, evaluation and merit, not centrally mandated and automatically granted based on the amount of time someone has worked here.”
An assistant professor of outdoor studies at the University of Alaska Southeast was mauled by a bear during a mountaineering class on Monday, the Associated Press reported. The professor, Forest Wagner, was with a group of students on Mount Emmerich when he was attacked by a sow with two cubs. A student hiked down the mountain to notify authorities, since there was no cell phone service at the site of the attack. Students were safely removed from the mountain but the professor remained in the hospital in serious condition on Tuesday.
While diversity in American higher education has improved substantially in recent decades, wealthier students still earn the bulk of the bachelor's degrees awarded in this country, according to new data from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy.
A newly released study from the two groups found that the distribution of bachelor's degree attainment between family levels has remained relatively constant since 1970. The top two family income quartiles accounted for 72 percent of the total number of bachelor's degrees earned that year -- and 77 percent of bachelor's degrees earned in 2014. "The bottom two quartiles accounted for 28 percent in 1970 and 23 percent in 2014," the study found, "a decline of five percentage points over this period."
JetBlue on Monday announced a new employer-sponsored college degree program with some unusual features. The airline is offering its employees with at least 15 previous college credits the chance to earn a bachelor's degree for $3,500 or less.
So far 400 JetBlue employees have signed up for the program. Each is assigned one of six success coaches JetBlue has trained and employs. The airline and its coaches then help employee students map a path to a degree from Thomas Edison State University, an online, public university based in New Jersey.
Students will receive prior learning credits for skills and knowledge they've picked up on the job. They also will be directed to online courses from Sophia, StraighterLine.com and Study.com, which in turn can earn students credit recommendations from the American Council on Education, which Thomas Edison accepts.
"We give them one class at a time," said Bonny Simi, president of JetBlue Technology Ventures, who helped create the program. She said the airline sought to eliminate some of the complexity in earning a degree and to use coaches to review students' transcripts and to help them fill in the gaps.
The company is planning for 1,000 of its 18,000 employees to be enrolled in the degree program on an annual basis, Simi said.
Tenured and tenure-track faculty members at the College of Southern Nevada voted 263 to 126 to form a union affiliated with the American Association of University Professors, they announced Monday. The college said in a statement that its looks "forward to moving ahead with the collective bargaining process."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti last week said the city would help finance a newly announced program to offer one year of free community college to graduates of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The announcement, which Garcetti made Thursday during his 2016 State of the City address, includes a $1.5 million fund-raising commitment from the city, the Los Angeles Timesreported. The program's initial cost will be $3 million, and the K-12 district will pick up the other half of that amount. (Closing the price gap in California is fairly affordable, given the two-year system's low tuition prices.)
"Los Angeles will become the largest city in the nation to commit ourselves to a new goal: every hardworking student who graduates from LAUSD will receive one free year of community college," Garcetti said in the written version of his speech.
Wright Career College, a small, Kansas City-based career college chain, closed its five campuses last week and filed for bankruptcy. The college said in a written statement it had sought to bring in an outside group to gradually phase out the campuses, but that effort failed. Wright emailed its students about the closure on Thursday night, The Kansas City Starreported.
The chain included campuses in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. It enrolls about 1,400 students, according to federal data.
“We are saddened by these events,” said John Mucci, Wright's president. “From our beginning in 1921 until our closure, we have always operated with the focus of putting the interests of our students first. It is unfortunate our students cannot complete their programs at Wright Career College. I would like to thank our employees for their tireless dedication and commitment in helping our students achieve their educational and career goals.”
The University of California at Berkeley announced Friday that Claude Steele would be stepping down as provost and joining the faculty of the psychology department. Steele became provost in 2014 and his tenure has been controversial at times, with some faculty members and others questioning whether he was sufficiently communicative and whether he was strong enough in acting against those accused of sexual harassment. The Berkeley announcement made no mention of those issues, and said that Steele was stepping down because his wife is facing serious health issues.